Wednesday 16th FebruaryFebruary 17, 2011
Really tired tonight, so much so I struggled to concentrate on the music I have been listening to, though thankfully I have been able to play the CD a few times over the past few days. The disc in question is a newish release on the Live Actions imprint, an offshoot of the Herbal International label. The disc is named Poverb and is by the trio of Mathias Pontevia, (horizontal drums) Nusch Werchowska, (piano and objects) and Heddy Boubaker (alto and bass saxophones), who perform under the (pretty bad) group name of Trio WPB3. As I guess may be the case with all of the Live Actions releases, this disc captures a live performance held in a Hamburg church back in 2008.
Now, on one hand, I could probably describe the music here in vaguely floral, descriptive terms with no problem. On the other though, its actually quite hard to sun up this music with any quick and easy pigeon-hole terminology, which is clearly a good thing. The music is all played acoustically, and for the most part in a quite traditional manner (the piano is ‘played’ via the keys, the sax blown through, the drums hit etc…) and in places there are hints at free jazz (certainly some of the musicians have experience in this area) but they remain only hints. If you asked me to pin this one down to some micro-genre I just couldn’t do it. It isn’t full of silence, but then it also isn’t overtly busy. It contains plenty of expressive playing, but then there are textures and ringing tones in there as well. It is then, a fifty-four minute long CD of improvised music that cannot be easily pinned down. That’s a good start in my opinion.
While three musicians play here, you could almost call this recording a quartet, with the venue and its resonant space playing the fourth part. Every sound we hear is extended by the rich natural amplification provided by the church. We hear each sound reflected back slightly, and the sudden attacks on the huge drums that characterise the second half of the disc in particular benefit from this. The music then has a dark, brooding feel to it, helped no end by the echo in the room. The musicians can be felt listening to one another very closely, resting together in the quiet recesses that pocket the music often, but also billowing out into little explosions of joint activity elsewhere. Pontevia’s drums impress me the most here. I am not 100% certain what a horizontal drum is, but I am guessing at a sizeable barrel turned sideways, maybe suspended or sat on a frame. Certainly when hit hard they make a formidable, deep crash, and in several places Pontevia does just this, sending shockwaves through the music and breaking up any shift towards the jazzier end of things that the music may have suggested.
Listening right now as I type, I find myself coming back to the interaction between the trio, the way they seem to listen really well and respond to one another in a manner that feels natural and yet somehow not predictable. The music flits between the delicate and the powerful, in one minute a fine combination of sax fluttering and piano skittering might be undercut by a thunderous strike at a drum, or gentle chiming piano notes might merge into ringing metal percussion of some kind. There is quite a range of dynamic here that is amplified furtehr by the resonant recording space.
So this isn’t a CD likely to garner rave reviews in the hippest of places, and it isn’t remarkable enough in any way to stand out from the crowd, but what it is is a nice document that captures a thoroughly creative and highly enjoyable live gig in a great sounding space. Listening to it tonight, as with the last couple of nights when I have given it a spin I have felt quite close to the performance, which is what a live CD probably should achieve. This isn’t a disc likely to top anyone’s shopping lists, but I don’t think its one that should be ignored. The musicianship, shown both through the skilled playing but also through the careful listening that feeds it is top notch, and the resulting music will please a good number of listeners if they got the chance to hear it. Good stuff.